Do you know what’s missing from every major dystopian novel? Some kind of novel-within-the-novel that paints normality as the dystopia.
We could see a faint shadow of this in ‘Brave New World’, where the “civilized” characters are horrified by the thought of mothers being a thing - but Huxley just didn’t flesh out this idea enough. There needed to be some culturally iconic piece of literature within the story that helped to keep the characters constantly averse to normality and which the characters constantly invoked when they felt threatened by said normality. Basically, ‘Brave New World’ needed its own version of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.
I use this book (‘The Handmaid’s Tale’) to make my point because it’s the perfect illustration of exactly what I’m talking about. Feminists invoke this book not when they feel they’re being threatened with sexual enslavement or violence, but when they’re being threatened with normality; with a healthy model of society.
It’s not violence or sexual degradation they’re afraid of; it’s modesty, chastity, decency, meekness, duty, and not having the complete unrestricted freedom to dispose of their children or abandon their families whenever they want. These are the things that really scare them. These are their dystopia.
And this is the kind of thing that should be playfully acknowleged in stories. As we experience the transvaluation of values and the complete inversion of morality, the cultural representations of desirable and undesirable societies change to the point where the old stories of dystopian worlds are laughed at, because they’re no longer seen as dystopian.
To be sure, we can see this happening right in front of our eyes. With each passing year, as the culture continues to degenerate, more and more of our most vital customs and social institutions are made to pass from the realm of normality to the realm of dystopia. Normality is dystopianized and dystopia is normalized.
In fact, you can see what I’m talking about in this video of a feminist saying that marriage itself is like something out of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’:
Soon, this will be the prism through which all people view marriage, and many other things besides.
This is why the normality-as-dystopia novel-within-the-novel would be so useful. It would function as an important reminder to people of the reality of mimetic desire and how propaganda tells us what sort of society we should want - providing us with a form of metafiction that has more of a purpose than just mere novelty.